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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I have listened with great care to the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I hope to deal with them effectively in the course of my response, but I wish to explain briefly the impact of the regulations and what we are seeking to do.
Noble Lords will have heard me speak before in your Lordships' House about the significant contribution that we want to be made to improving standards in schools through the remodelling of the school workforce. The regulations help clarify the way in which schools can deploy their workforces more effectively, providing them with safeguards on standards and enabling them to deliver the benefits of the national agreement to their teachers and their other staff. They also preserve the role, status and overall responsibilities of qualified teachers in schools.
Many aspects of the regulationsthe noble Earl, in particular, picked up some of them and I will deal with his pointsincluding those regarding the role of qualified teachers and different types of unqualified teachers such as instructors, trainees on employment-based training routes and overseas trained teachers, update previous legislation. But, in one key regard, the regulations introduce new safeguards in an area where previously there has been a lack of claritythat is, the deployment of growing numbers of support staff in schools. That is something I know the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, supports and which I believe the noble Earl will also support.
In the past, there was nothing in law to say in what circumstances schools could deploy such individuals to teach whole classes or small groups of children, or to work with individual children. If they did so, there was nothing to say how schools should support those individuals, how they could be sure that the individuals had appropriate expertise or training, and how they could be sure that the standard of education for pupils was being maintainedan aim that I know is shared by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. In short, there was nothing to preclude someone with no qualifications or experience from teaching children of any age, whether for short periods or possibly longer. That was, in effect, the situation in the time before these regulations were introduced. I think we are all agreed that that is something we would wish to change. I believe that the thrust of the regulations will take us to where the noble Earl and the noble Baroness would wish us to be.
We have introduced the regulations and the accompanying guidance for schools to provide a clearer legal framework. They recognise the contribution of individuals who are not teachers but may have other valuable qualifications and experience. The regulations also, as I have said, build in important safeguards.
Under these regulations, if support staff are to undertake any aspects of what we call specified work with groups or classes of children, including the delivery of lessons to pupils, a clear set of conditions must be complied with. First, they must undertake the work to assist or support the work of a teacher. Secondly, they must be under the direction and supervision of a teacher, and thirdly, the head teacher must be satisfied that the individual has the skills, expertise and experience to carry out the work. I believe that that addresses the noble Earl's point about knowing nothing about these people. The onus is very clear; the responsibility rests with the head teacher and teachers to make sure that those individuals have the necessary skills, expertise and experience. We have provided an indication of what we think those should be in the new standards for high level teaching assistants, published on 16th September. Early next year we will be introducing training to help individuals meet those standards.
Making it very clear what we expect to be done and the kind of training and experience we expect and then providing, through the Teacher Training Agency, the kind of high-level teaching assistance, training and support funded by the Government that is necessaryit is being piloted now and will be rolled out next Easterwill, we believe, enhance the quality of the experience for children in school, which I know that noble Lords on all Benches wish to see.
I do not believe that head teachers appoint people who do not have the appropriate skills, expertise and experience. I do not believe that they work to undermine their own standards in their own school.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, people apply to attend teacher training courses. The noble Earl is referring to those attending through schools. Again, anyone employing anybody in a school is required to look at their expertise, experience and skills and ensure that they undergo the appropriate checks. I do not believe that head teachers would fail to do that.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. She said a moment ago that until now there has been no prescription about the way in which teaching assistants can be used in schools. I gave the noble Baroness chapter and verse of regulations that are to be repealed. Those regulations allowed head teachers to direct unqualified staff to undertake work in prescribed circumstances. Where
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I think we are very clearly within these regulations. If the noble Baroness will look at them, she will see that we lay out very clearly in Regulation 6 what specified work is. We have been very clear.
The noble Earl asked me specifically whether there were other things that teachers carry though. Indeed there arefor example, appraisal of staff, staff meetings, the direction of cover staff, and so on. They are all laid out in Part 12 of the teachers' pay and conditions document, which gives a full list and to which I refer the noble Earl.
The noble Earl also asked me about references. We took the trouble to check with a number of head teachers. There has never been anything to prevent anybody giving anyone a reference but the head teachers are absolutely clear that within the teaching profession and in all schools, they would be the ones giving the references. It is not a legal requirement because references are given by whoever, but that would be their expectation, which I believe deals with the noble Earl's point.
We want to make sure that we have in our schools a flexible workforce to recognise the reality of what is happening there and to make sure that, as I said during the passage of the Education Bill, we do two things at the same time. One is to protect people working in schools and give them opportunities. I agree with the noble Baroness and the noble Earl that we want people to pursue the routes and the ladders of opportunity to becoming qualified teachers.
I also believe that there are people in our schools with expertise who do not wish to do that for a variety of reasons. They may not be graduates, for example, but could become a high-level teaching assistant. Under our modern foreign languages strategy, people with great linguistic skills and the ability to communicate with children are able to come into schools and teach a lesson under the supervision of a teacher. That teacher may not be in the room while the class is being taught a Portuguese lesson but is involved in ensuring that the lesson is delivered effectively, that the individual is monitored and is under supervision when it comes to planning the lesson. This has been true of lessons with musical instruments and of the instructor scheme when there has not been an available teacher and people come into schools from industry. I believe that what we are doing enhances what we have.
The noble Baroness was specifically concerned about nominated teachers and qualifications. I shall be as clear as I can on that. We have been very clear about unqualified teachers because we want to allow the following circumstances to apply.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred often to overseas teachers, who are relevant in this context. The recognition that we give overseas teachers is restricted to those in the European Union and a few other
If a teacher is in that position, it is reasonable to say that there may be circumstances in which they would supervise a trainee. For example, a person who is actually in the process of getting a PGCE might do a bit of supervision as part of the training. Some nursery nurses and teachers appointed before 1989 do not have QTS. They can use teaching assistants as any other nursery teacher canwe would not want to exclude them.
The crucial factor is the discretion of the head teacher. I have been told in clear tones by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and many other Members of your Lordships' House about their desire to ensure that we recognise the experience and expertise of head teachers and let them get on with the job. Within what we are doing here is a clear steer to head teachersto their professionalism.
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